David Johansen “David Johansen”

I still think of this as one of my favorite records of all time, but that has to be partly due to going to see him at the Cleveland Agora not long after this record came out in 1978. I was 18 and could go to a bar, and this was the first time I saw a band I really liked at a bar (rather than a concert venue) and I was amazed at how close to the stage I could get. I hadn’t ever really listened to the New York Dolls, and from the pictures on the album cover, I expected the band to be wearing pretty much all black leather– so I was pretty shocked when David Johansen came out wearing  an all bright yellow suit with matching hat and started dancing around like a maniac. It was a great show, maybe my favorite rock show ever– the energy was overwhelming to me.

So over the years since, I STILL get the feeling back from these songs. The interesting thing is that I have changed my favorite songs over the years. I’m sure of that. The geekiest thing I can think of to do right now would be to rank the songs (all of which I really like) according to how I feel about them NOW. But I won’t do that. Okay (from least to favorite): 9. Lonely Tenement 8. Pain In My Heart 7. Girls 6. Cool Metro 5. I’m a Lover 4. Donna 3. Not That Much 2. Funky But Chic 1. Frenchette. I could go on and on about these songs forever, but I won’t. (I’m sure this was the first time I ever heard a CONCEPT like “I’m in love with you daddy, but not that much.”)

It’s no secret that the New York Dolls are my favorite rock’n’roll band of all time, but by the time I listened to them they were in the distant past. I suppose this record might have been a disappointment to Dolls fans, the cover and back cover pictures are kind of screaming “I’m not in drag!” But for me at the time, nothing seemed cooler than that pack of Lucky Strikes sitting on the floor. The band picture on the inner sleeve is hilarious– the band looks like the cast of “Mean Streets”– well, the one guy looks just like young Bill Wyman. My favorite is the bass player, Buzz Verno (nicknamed definitely NOT after his haircut) who, live, as I recall, was wearing a couple of huge white leather belts, hanging down low. The two guitarists look pretty much the same– which is always a nice look for a band. It says a “Joe Perry” played on Cool Metro (as well as Sylvain Sylvain)– and if it was THAT Joe Perry, I’m wondering if there was a contest that day in the studio for protruding cheekbones and puckered lips.

Anyway, I think this is a record that I’ll ALWAYS be able to listen to. (I’m kind of sad I don’t have his next one, “In Style” which is pretty good, too.) I know it’s personal, though, and has to do with circumstances. Every time I listen to a New York Dolls record I think about that.


7 Responses to “David Johansen “David Johansen””

  1. August 23, 2007 at 9:19 pm

    wow, this is funny – I know a lot of people like the Dolls, people whose tastes I highly respect too – but man, I totally can’t f’ing stand them! Never have been able to. But then, I like Mott the Hoople, so who am I to talk? Anyway, So, I’ve never heard this record, or ever wanted to, but the story about seeing them at the Agora and liking the show a lot is pretty good – I know how that goes..

  2. August 24, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    You played in The Crummy Fags and you don’t like the New York Dolls? That’s shocking! If it’s Johnny Thunders over the top guitar playing you don’t like, you might like this David Johansen record. Though, like I said, it’s a lot about nostalgia for me. But I LOVE David Johansen’s singing– that’s my favorite thing– I wish he could sing me to sleep every night. I suppose he could… I DO have a cassette deck. By the way, I taped another live show of him and the same band (which included Sylvain Sylvain) from the radio, WMMS, at the Cleveland Agora, summer of 1978. I hope I still have it somewhere. They did a lot of nice covers, like “Build Me Up Buttercup” another one of my favorite songs of all time.

  3. August 28, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    Oh, also, I really love Mott the Hoople– who are very different from the New York Dolls, of course, but it’s kind of like a guilty pleasure– just the way they are dripping with 1970s British rockstar bullshit– I just love that stuff. Ian Hunter has made it a little difficult– well, really only because of that Cleveland Rocks song– but he’s a pretty interesting singer. Anyway, Mott the Hoople are coming up soon!

  4. January 18, 2009 at 4:03 am

    I ran into Buzz Verno (ex-David Johansen Group) on the express bus to Staten Island this past Thursday! He’s living clean, looking sharp, & still a really good guy. Made my day.

  5. February 8, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    That’s nice to hear! I was just thinking about Buzz Verno– I’m not kidding– when I was watching these DVDs of old Rolling Stones footage. When I saw David Johansen in 1978, he was definitely doing a version of Mick Jagger (which isn’t to say he wasn’t BETTER than Mick Jagger– and on that summer night in Cleveland, the most exciting rocknroll performer in the world at that moment)– but the funny thing is how Buzz Verno reminded me of Bill Wyman. Even though those two guitar players who looked kind of the same DOUBLED their coolness, and David Johansen with that yellow suit was pretty outrageous, Buzz Verno was the coolest guy on the stage. And what I was thinking watching the old Rolling Stone stuff was that Bill Wyman was the coolest guy in that group, and he the best look, too. When I was a little kid and would see images of the Rolling Stones that scared the hell out of me, it was Bill Wyman’s face that I really associated with that band.

  6. 6 Deborah Gentit
    December 4, 2010 at 5:02 am

    Nice to hear good things about Buz, especially since I’ll become Mrs. Buz on Dec. 21st 🙂 Buz and I have known each other for over 30 years. He was a great bass player then and is still great now. He has a new project in the works. The new project will include one of the David Johansen guitarists you mentioned and possibly the other one as well.

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